Mexico: Vulnerable to HIV, Resistant to Labels
August 8, 2008
AIDS experts say the challenge of preventing AIDS in Latin American countries such as Mexico, where the 17th International AIDS Conference is taking place, is made far more difficult by machismo and negative attitudes toward homosexuality.
HIV/AIDS is concentrated in Mexico among men, particularly those who have sex with other men, "hombres que tienen sexo con hombres," or HSH. HIV prevalence in the general Mexican population is 0.3 percent, while among HSH it approaches 15 percent.
Experts say some men live lives of denial and frequently engage in high-risk behavior. Such men are particularly hard to reach in prevention campaigns because they do not listen if they sense the message is geared toward gay men.
Dr. Jorge Saavedra, who directs Mexico's AIDS program, said, "I'd say most of the men in Mexico who have sex with men will never recognize that they are gay or bisexual." He added, "It makes our job all the harder since there is so much shame involved."
According to Saavedra, Mexico has promoted condom use but not stressed fidelity in its AIDS campaigns because if only the woman is faithful, the man could still become infected by secretly having sex with men. Experts call this the "bisexual bridge."
Acceptance of gay relationships in Mexico has increased significantly, as evidenced by the recent law in Mexico City allowing civil unions for gay couples. All the same, prejudice still exists and many gay people live secret lives.
Martin Marquez Chagoya, an HIV-positive gay man in Mexico, counsels other men to use condoms and often hears from them that they are not gay and are therefore not at risk. They say they are merely having sex with gays.
New York Times
08.07.2008; Marc Lacey, Elisabeth Malkin, Lawrence K. Altman
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.